Guide Women as Unseen Characters: Male Ritual in Papua New Guinea (Social Anthropology in Oceania)

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With Free Saver Delivery. Facebook Twitter Pinterest Share. Description Rituals have always been a focus of ethnographies of Melanesia, providing a ground for important theorizing in anthropology. This is especially true of the male initiation rituals that until recently were held in Papua New Guinea. For the most part, these rituals have been understood as all-male institutions, intended to maintain and legitimate male domination. Women's exclusion from the forest space where men conducted most such rites has been taken as a sign of their exclusion from the entire ritual process.

Women as Unseen Characters is the first book to examine the role of females in Papua New Guinea male rituals, and the first systematic treatment of this issue for any part of the world. For men, such individual experiences precede the events of institutionalized ceremonies which formally recognize a boy's calling as a shaman.

The first of these cult ceremonies occurs in first stage initiation. In the morangu lit. The cult house ceremony is but one sequence in the liminal stage Turner of initiatory activities. Following formal separation from their mothers, other women, and children, the novices incur painful rituals and other ordeals. They are formally taught the means for achieving masculine growth and prowess.

The morangu ceremony, in which the novices seek to attract to them personal spirit familiars, is one such cultural means. The cult house is built within the forest, removed from the hamlets, and it bears a structural resemblance to the high forest hunting lodges kai-angu of clan hunting territories. But the particular symbolic nature of the house — to attract spirit familiars — is manifested in ceremonial decorations and ritually efficacious leaves which are hung within and outside of the house.

These decorations are said to compel familiars from the nearby forest,. Possession by familiars is symbolized by the leaves, or other substances which bodily adhere to the novices when they emerge from the cult house. Through the ceremonies, boys are viewed as acquiring the familiars identified with becoming shamans, cassowary hunters, fight leaders, and the like. In numerous cases, I should add, the familiars are also believed to be the same as were attached to the novices' fathers. Again, the ceremony confirms a continuity in the inheritance of supernatural powers from father to son.

Later, in healing ceremonies, senior shamans divinate to ascertain that these familiars have indeed possessed the boys. Even if novices receive a sign that they have attracted shamanistic familiars, however, they do not begin to perform as shamans. Nor do they usually experience possession or trance states. They do not experience trance and possession until the next cult ceremony, the narangu, following upon the completion of third stage initiation ipmaangwi. Third stage initiation is a puberty ceremony.

Following it, the initiates may be married — a recognition of their social and biological maturity. When a new men's house kwulangu is built within a hamlet some time after third stage initiation the event is celebrated by performing a narangu ceremony within it.

Men of nearby hamlets participate in the ceremonies, as do senior shamans. Shamans are crucial in the performance of the narangu ceremony. The construction of the narangu house is similar to that of the earlier morangu ceremonial house. Once more, special decorations, leaves, and mud, are ostensibly utilized to attract spirit familiars to the house and take possession of the participants.

Here, in the context of the narangu, men may experience their first trance and possession, by shamanistic familiars ; this event is followed by their formal initiation as shamans. The narangu is the key institutionalized context in which trance states are recognized and expected of men believed to be called as shamans. Trance is induced by extremely heavy smoking of strong native tobacco shopu in bamboo pipes. It is further complemented by the ingestion of supposedly hallucinogenic leaves and tree fruits pinu.

Moreover, during the three days of ceremonial song-feast activities, little food and water is taken. There is little sleeping. And there is a complete abstention from heterosexual intercourse. In fact, male shamans usually report that their first involuntary trance occurred within the narangu following third stage initiation.

He is thus. This is believed to be the evincible, authentic sign of the shaman's calling. During the narangu, senior shamans play an instrumental role in observing, guiding, and verbally instructing young novices. Senior shamans, especially those friendly to the boy which may include a consanguineal or lineal brother, paternal uncle, and perhaps his mother's brother may take an active role in advising him. These helping relationships which for want of a better term I shall call, apprenticeships , may persist for years following the original narangu trance experience.

This advice and instruction is crucial in the novice- shaman's development. Besides the perceptual effects of heavy smoking, the ingestion of substances and sleeplessness, the social expectations of the ceremonial context are also important. Men expect that an initiate may become possessed and fall into his first trance during the narangu.

This experience is actively sought. The child or descendant of a shaman whose dreams and childhood experiences pointed towards his calling as a shaman may sense the pressures of his elders, peers and senior shamans, that at this moment he will actually fall into a trance state identified with the prestigious shaman. In sum, the novice is in a state of "perceptual readiness" to achieve trance and possession. In the terms of T. Oesterreich quoted in Lewis : 25 the narangu context is one of heightened suggestibility such that possession may occur ; direct contact with spirits becomes experienced reality ; and the signs of a calling are realized in the action of becoming a shaman.

At the close of the narangu, a special ritual is held to legitimize the possession experience and determine the effectiveness of the novice's powers. The ritual bwi-rumdu is performed around the site of a small pond boongu in the forest. A large crowd of men and senior shamans deriving from the narangu, observe the events. The ground surrounding the pond is decorated with numerous leaves, flowers and other ritually efficacious plants. As a group, the shaman-novices kneel around the edges of the water, and, in a trance state, they conduct their first shamanistic performance.

This is an act of exorcism performed over the water. In the ritual performance which I observed in , eagle bwanju feathers a clan totem of the clan-hamlet group involved were held and whisked over the surface of the water by the novices. The novices were expected to extract pieces of hair, skin, and other excuvae believed to have been stolen by ghosts and deposited in the pond.

The bodily substances were taken to be a material representation of the stolen souls of living members of the community. By exorcising and retrieving these objects, the soul of the person was placed out of jeopardy of.

In the performance I observed, hair — supposedly removed from the water — was revealed in the hands of the novices. This act confirmed their authentic calling. One of the novices was Baindo5, a man with whom I worked for some months. While the particulars of his case are somewhat different from those of other male shamans — he was older than most at the time of his first possession — the case illustrates some of the more general features of the pattern of the development of men shamans.

Baindo is in his mid-thirties and is married with four children. He is liked and respected.

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He and his wife are not close. His father was a shaman, and he comes from a family of notable shamans. He has recounted to me that in his dreams, since childhood, he had perceived the individual image of his possessing familiar. The familiar is named and is supposedly quick-witted and a lecherous fornicator such as Baindo would like to be. These and other traits Baindo commonly alluded to in describing his familiar as if he was a close friend.

Further, he claims that while he was still a child he actually interacted with the familiar, who took him away from the hamlet and "played games" with him. Because of his intense dreams, and his constant sleep-talking, his parents and others came to believe that he would one day become a shaman. This was confirmed in his morangu ceremony. Following his third stage initiation, he experienced his first trance privately in the house of a young shaman.

His male shaman friend had suggested to him that he might be called ; but although he fell into a trance, he did not 'whistle', and was not possessed. This pattern recurred in his narangu initiation. He has intermittently fallen into trance-states, as he reports it, and he has, during the ensuing years, acted as a medium who are also oracles. This has enabled him to gain prestige through his assistance in cult ceremonies, healing spells, and healing ceremonies. When the narangu was performed in , he believed that he would be possessed, and he was.

He was then formally initiated as a shaman. Since that time, he has actively performed. He frequently experiences a migraine headache mindu-gworuku following his trance experiences, and he sometimes evinces acute anxiety when placed in a stressful situation. Nonetheless, he has established himself as a leading practitioner. It is reported that men sometimes act "crazy" abrumbru and become temporarily mad following the several days of the intense narangu ceremony. When the men emerge from the cult house, certain of them become angry, often aggressive and violent, and generally 'dissociated'.

These individuals pick up their machetes or other weapons and they attempt to chase or harm other. They are restrained by other men. Such behaviours may occur not only among shaman novices, but other initiates as well. In belief, such crazy episodes are commonly associated with the initial possession experiences of shamans. While I have never observed this behaviour in the narangu cult context, I have observed it in secular life among several men in the hamlet in which I worked.

Two of these men were shamans. They seem to have a recurring history of such behaviours. Such attacks may be attributed to the loss of their shamanistic familiars. But such cases of 'hysterical possession' are also reported to occur as a result of attacks by ghosts, as they are, for example, among the Bena Langness Women lack the institutionalized cult ceremonies of the narangu and morangu in which men take part. And, unlike men, women do not perform an elaborate sequence of ostentatious initiation rituals.

In the absence of this cultural means of recruitment to the role of the shaman, therefore, the onset of trance and possession is manifested in a much different form than that of men6. Girls, like boys, experience childhood dreams, nightmares, and spirit encounters. These experiences may be given a similar interpretation for both of the sexes, yet there are fewer social pressures bearing upon the parents of a girl, compared to those of a boy, to evince from such experience evidence of a calling.

If a girl's mother or other close female kin is a shaman, her dreams may be regarded as a sign — again — that she may inherit her mother's familiars. Like men, women are not believed capable of effectively performing as shamans until they reach sexual maturity. Consequently, the actual onset of trance and possession does not occur until the time of the woman's first menses taikitnyi ; in some cases it is delayed until she is married and has borne a child.

There are two brief ceremonial initiations for women. They are secret, and men are excluded from them. At the first menses, the associated ceremony is secretly performed in the menstrual house pulungaatnyi-angu. At the birth of the first child moondangu , another ceremony — of a largely public nature — is performed. Within these contexts there is no attempt, as I understand it, to attract spirit familiars to the participants as occurs in the men's cult ceremonies.

By far the most frequent pattern in the onset of trance and possession in women occurs as the result of individual traumatic experiences. Such experiences result from experiencing the death of a loved one, the injury or sickness of a loved one, and difficult visits to unusual or alien places.

In the case of the female shaman, Kwinjinaambi, referred to earlier, she experienced her first trance and possession in a vividly recalled traumatic situation. While she was still a young married woman a serious accident befell her lineal father — a man to whom she was close. In her report she describes him as a parental figure. The man had fallen out of a tall tree while hunting possum, and he was at first feared dead.

A shamanistic healing ceremony was regarded , as an immediate necessity for the man's survival. But there was no shaman then present. Of this experience she recounted to me the following : "There was no one present to heal. His wife was overcome with grief. I then heard my shamanistic familiars come to me ; I whistled for the familiars.

It was then that I knew I was a kwooluku. I told her her lineal mother that I would heal him". Later, the man recovered, and she was believed to have been instrumental in his recovery. Kwinjinaambi's experience of this traumatic situation resulted in her first possession state. Her mother had been a shaman ; and her dreams had foretold of her calling. The outcome was comprehended by herself, and the community, as an imminent manifestation of omens of her calling over the years.

Later, she began to voluntarily induce trance states during healing ceremonies. This has led to her prominence as a shaman today. The case of the respected younger female shaman, Woru'ai, is somewhat different. She reports that while travelling through unfamiliar country, shortly after her first menses, she observed several unusual events. She saw things such as an unusual forest pond believed to be inhabited by ghosts , and the branch of a ritually efficacious tree fall down before her.

These events she interpreted as omens that a kwooluku familiar was present and intended to possess her. Then she fell into a trance. In healing ceremonies since that time, she has actively sought to induce in herself trance states. Following her marriage, several years ago, she began to perform healing ceremonies. Women do attempt, however, to acquire shamanistic familiars in association with the male narangu ceremony. At the time of the ceremony, women gather in hamlet houses in as close proximity as possible to the male cult house.

Female shamans hold collective healing ceremonies for women in these houses. During their trance states, the senior shamans attempt to attract to themselves new spirit familiars which are believed to be present in the vicinity of the cult house. In this manner, established shamans, and aspiring female novices, try to become possessed by new familiars.

In sum, there are different sex-linked cultural patterns which characterize a shaman's calling. For men, childhood experiences are later channeled into institutionalized cult ceremonies. Through cult ceremonies, their formative signs of a calling are reinforced and legitimized. For women, there is no abrupt separation from their mothers, natal households, and childhood life, as there is for men who are conscribed into the male cult.

The dreams and other childhood experiences of women foretelling their calling are given expression in traumatic situations which apparently precipitate the onset of trance and possession. The precise psychosocial causes of this situation, and the underlying psychodynamic needs which are satisfied through enactment of the role of shaman, remain to be seen. On the face of it, the Sambia pattern seems to be the reverse of what Spiro : has reported for his Burmese data.

Spiro notes that "In my sample, all but one of the females experienced nat possession at nat festivals, whereas all but one of the males had their first experience of possession following trauma". Spiro goes on to insightfully explore the various components — psychological and cultural — which might explain the sex-gender difference in the onset of shamanism. I cannot examine these issues in depth here. But I would suggest that for Sambia there are several important differences in relation to the Burmese situation. First, male shamans outnumber female shamans by a four to one margin.

Second, the traditional cultural emphasis upon the role of the shaman is placed upon the specifically male functions. Third, and most important I think, are the social pressures upon males. Sambia men experience a tremendous cultural discontinuity and emotional upheaval as a result of male cult initiations and intense psychosocial stresses as a result of the psycho-sexual and aggressive demands placed upon them. There is no structural alternative to the role of shaman in its satisfaction of underlying needs such as nuturance, identification with a possessing familiar, and feelings of being in control of supernatural powers.

These observations tend to confirm those of Spiro ibid. This constellation of underlying needs is clearly associated with the enactment of the shaman's role. Neither male nor female shamans begin to conduct healing ceremonies immediately after their first possession experience. They do perform healing spells upon the sick, and they participate, with senior shamans, in the performance of ceremonies. The novice shamans smoke and induce trance and possession.

They may discuss their dreams as they pertain to divination and exorcism cases. Still, they do not actually perform the latter acts by themselves. They are still regarded as inexperienced and vulnerable to the dangers associated with ghostly encounters during healing.

Moreover, in the months and. These tasks require an accumulating power associated only with adult married shamans. During this period, the befriending shaman helps his apprentice by teaching him various techniques and spells for healing. Non-verbally, the senior shamans also perform for their juniors, providing a behavioural role model for the latter. Nevertheless, an apprenticeship entails its own risks for senior shamans. This inhibits the working relationship between juniors and senior until the novice has proven the authenticity of his powers through numerous trance states, and again, in his dreams and oracular powers.

Following the onset of shamanism, the dreams of the novice continue to reveal information such as healing techniques, believed to be important for his development. The shaman's performance. Traditionally, the performance of shamans entered into five facets of social organization. I shall begin with a brief discussion of the male shaman's role in 1 warfare activities ; then I briefly touch upon his performance in 2 mortuary and 3 initiation ceremonies. However, in the present context, I am most concerned with 4 healing ceremonies, and 5 prophecy. Aboriginally, warfare was chronic and pervasive among Sambia, as among the Ba- ruya cf.

Godelier, b. Understandably, the shaman played a key part through his oracular prophecies and prognostications concerning military battles. In their dreams and those of others — which were gleaned for their omens — shamans sought to predict surprise attacks. In divinations, they also spoke as oracles in predicting the relative success of 4i proposed offensive campaign. Shamans were sometimes fight leaders aamoo- luku. Moreover, to insure the success of a battle, male shamans would hold healing ceremonies within the men's house where such ceremonies are still held prior to a battle.

Men would be individually " protected " ; their persons and their war weapons would be ceremonially expurgated of any residues of the pollution of women. Finally, shamans were deemed critical for their abilities to cleanse warriors following battles. They ceremonially expurgated from the weapons and persons of warriors the blood of slain enemies.

This prevented reprisal attacks by the ghosts of the slain warriors upon the victors. It falls to shamans to conduct the final. This ceremony, called the yumbunju, cannot be described here. But through the use of healing ceremonies, the associated playing of flutes and bull-roarers, and the offering of food in the garden of the deceased, the community attempts to placate the ghost. These ceremonies are aimed at "fencing off" the hamlet from the malevolent ghost, which is beseeched to remove itself to the hamlets of enemies, and to there lie rest.

Again, senior shamans assume an active part in organizing the morangu and narangu ceremonies, associated with first-stage and third-stage rituals, previously mentioned. These ceremonies — as much as the initiation rituals — are believed essential to the masculine development of novices by enabling them to acquire spirit familiars. Government health facilities are still limited, and of little present significance. In , when the Government Medical Officer Stocklin visited the Dunkwi-phratry hamlet of Morundoowki, he observed that its shamans held great power in the performance of healing ceremonies for its inhabitants.

With only minor changes, that first record of Sambia shamanistic curing still holds today. Shamans treat nearly the entire range of afflictions. Illness and death, as in most New Guinea societies cf. Lawrence and Meggitt , is attributed to human and super-natural beings. In Sambia, the causes of such afflictions are of three basic types : 1 attacks by ghosts, ancestral spirits, or hamlets spirits ; 2 sorcery, attributed to shamans and others ; and 3 soul theft, by ghosts.

There are two types of healing ceremonies ; individual-focused ceremonies kwolyu , and collective ceremonies to protect groups kwolyaa- lunbi 1. The hvolyaalunbi ceremony is ostensibly performed for a clan-hamlet by several senior and junior shamans. But by extension, its protective power reaches out to emhrace all of the nearby hamlets.

The ceremonies thus attract large crowds. They may be triggered, as occurred in a number of cases which I observed from , as a result of the dream of a senior shaman or elder. Ominous dreams of this sort portend. They are regarded in deadly earnest. The organization of the kwolyaalunbi is similar to that of the individualized kwolyu ceremonies. All of the on-looking participants, seated upon the floor of the chosen house, are individually rubbed with leaves to protect them. The shamans collectively divine which areas surrounding the cordyline markers of the hamlet are thought vulnerable to the approaching sickness.

These 'gaps' are attended to by the shamans who, while in the trance state, 'send' their familiars to such localities to 'guard' them, thus warding off the epidemic. By extension of the same process, familiars are sent to the vulnerable 'gaps' on the spikes of the mountain ridges surrounding the river valley of the community. Finally, one or more of the male shamans stand up inside of the house and shake long pieces of phallic-like 'red' coloured bamboo filled with water over the crowd. Walking around the edges of the hearth, the cold water is ceremonially spilt over the participants to 'cool them', and thus ward off sickness described in terms of making the skin 'hot'.

In individual healing ceremonies, one or more senior shamans officiate. In the case of immobilized patients, the ceremony is performed in the house where the person rests. Otherwise the shaman's own house may be used. The children and women who participate in the ceremony gather the conventional plants which are to be used in it. These plants include the wild sugar cane grass yumi'u , red and green cordylines bwoy'nbwulu , and two types of ginger leaves nashu, and narogangu.

Those items uniquely used only by an individual practitioner revealed in his dreams or taught to him by other shamans are provided by him. After the participants have entered the house, the door is fastened shut. No one may then enter or leave the house until the ceremony is concluded. It is customarily believed, as shamans themselves note, that their familiars are 'sensitive' to loud noises while they are in a trance state.

Their familiars are said to 'resent' noises, and, of their own volition, they are believed to angrily attack the offenders, sometimes inflicting sickness by lodging an object in the stomach. Most healing ceremonies occur at night. Collective singing ceremonies n'daatu precede the onset of trance for the shamans. During this time, chewing betel nut, drinking, and eating are prohibited for all of the participants. Again, trance is induced by heavy smoking. In this heady, cramped, shadowy atmosphere, shamans smoke and hyperventilate.

Ginger leaves are distributed throughout the crowd and hung up. Thus are ginger leaves fanned out to literally encircle the house, with their protective smell which is believed to ward off malevolent ghosts. The beginning of the trance state is associated with the shaman's characteristic whistle.

This whistle, the shamans say, is a 'call' to their familiars from the forest and river areas. Shamans report that the heavy smoking and singing create in them a " lightheadedness ". The emitted whistle attracts their familiars, who fly to them and rest atop of their heads and shoulders. Healing trances are subjectively associated with the familiars reportedly "talking" to the shamans, inside the ear. Moreover, the lightheadedness and purported speaking of the familiars slowly turns into a migrane headache which is reported by most shamans following their ceremonial performances.

They also report that their eyesight becomes blurred, and their faces have little perceptible feeling, especially in the nasal area. All shamans argue that during trance states, they perceive the faces of other persons as distorted ; the noses become blurred, red, and ugly — a revolting and yet fascinating phenomenon for them. Moreover, they say that they are actually able to 'see' their familiars, and those of other shamans, which are present around the hearth where they sit. At this point, the singing and other noise within the house stops. The healing ceremony, which has begun with a trance, proceeds to the divination.

If smoking induces a trance, it is also the mechanism through which divination yenyi-iwotu occurs. For it is the heady smoke, shamans say, which generates a special power in their eyes. The eyes are said to become extraordinarily perceptive as if they were lit with a lamplight. Consequently, shamans say that the bodies of persons become clear like 'glass', thus enabling them to penetrate and divine the cause of illness within the patients' bodies.

The officiating shamans sit in a circle around the hearth. In moments of quiet, shamans speak in rather hurried, terse sentences, making pronouncements regarding the causes of affliction. These statements predominantly pertain to the patients. A recent dream may be revealed ; however, its significance is not then interpreted. The oracular meaning of the dreams, or other omens uncovered by the shamans or others , is not generally discussed until after the ceremony is concluded.

Recent events of mundane or unusual nature may be discussed; they may afterwards be interpreted as additional omens pertaining to the case. There may occur — as I have observed it — brief allusion to such omens which eventuates in a consensus among the practitioners as to the affliction. This technique, in which trance induced divination produces a quick and consensual strategy among shamans without perceptible discussion, seems to indicate.

Following directly upon the divination segment, there are four possible phases in the further process of healing : termination of the ceremony; exorcism; spiritual ascendance to retrieve the soul ; and final expurgation. First, the divination may reveal that the soul has been stolen but it cannot be located. In this case, the ceremony may be abruptly terminated ; there is nothing further that can be done. In bald terms, shamans may morbidly predict the patient's lingering illness and likely death; or they may simply remain vague about the case, adding that they are helpless in the matter.

Contrarily, they may postpone the ceremony to a later time ; then another divination is performed perhaps utilizing the help of , another established shaman. Second, a simple expurgation may be performed without ascendance of the shaman's familiars. This is essentially a purificatory act to remove perceived pollutants within the patient's body and to enliven the person. Ginger leaves are rubbed over the body and attached to it ; spells are said ; cordyline leaves are twisted into the skin ; and the healer blows over the skin, face, and into the ears of the patient.

This is said to cleanse the body. In such cases, it is often believed that a ghost has 'breathed' on a person, and especially upon the liver kalu. The ghostly breath is a malodorous, putrifying agent, which weakens, blackens, and sickens. In the local idiom, it makes the skin appear as if it were covered with the grey-coloured liverwort, or other tree-parasites, which disfigure otherwise clean, healthy trees. The procedure, if not immediately effective, may be repeated again and again in consecutive ceremonies, for the malingering sick. Third, if divination reveals, however, that the patient has been attacked and speared in the stomach, an exorcism may be performed.

The cause of the attack may be attributed either to ghosts or shamans. Alternatively, the actual exorcism procedure may be postponed until a later ceremony. If the exorcism proceeds, cinnammon bark may be spit by the shamans over the assembled crowd. This is said to allow the familiars easy penetration of the patient's body in extracting foreign objects. To perform the exorcism, the shaman holds three efficacious objects : ginger leaves, cordyline leaves, and the red ritual head- cloth ip'moogu. The patient has the ginger leaves rubbed over his body.

The red headcloth is rubbed over the face, and whisked towards the heavens, while healing spells are said. Then the cordylines are twisted goombidu into the patient's chest, groin, and stomach ; they are jerked from the body, and bound into a knot. The procedure may be repeated many times. Later the leaves are carefully discarded. The most common objects which I have seen supposedly remov-. These items are referred to as 'spears' shot into the body.

The shaman Baindo once asserted to me that most sick persons have been speared in the stomach thus : " In the kwolyu, we shamans see through the skin like it were made of 'glass'. We see that the skin is filled with blood minjaahu. Our blood is like a 'pond' boongu of water ; if it is dammed up, a man falls ill. If a ghost spears you, your blood stagnates ; and it coagulates.

Women as Unseen Characters Male Ritual in Papua New Guinea

Your liver kalu turns 'black-coloured'. The object is displayed upon a cordyline leaf after its purported extraction from the body. Then it is usually retained by the shaman for safe keeping. Sometimes, the object is smoked over the rafters of a hearth. This is believed to help relieve the pain of a patient, since the object had made him 'heavy' sickly and lethargic and the smoking is believed to 'burn away' the heaviness. If the spear was divined to be that of a ghost, or enemy shaman, the object is smoked or burnt. This is said to result in the actual death of the living shaman. If the spear belongs to a local shaman, however, whose familiar has speared the patient presumably unwittingly the spear is set aside, and the shaman is informed.

He or she ought to help expurgate the illness by performing spells over the patient's body, an act which reestablishes his good will. Fourth, soul theft by ghosts is dealt with by the shaman's ascendance with the help of his familiars. The power thought necessary to ascend to the world of ghostly houses kumaam-angu — in caves, rock crevices, or the heavens — is awesome. Hence mediums and novice shamans will not attempt spiritual ascendance.

Accomplishing this act is generally considered a milestone in the shaman's own development. Even so, recovery of a soul requires the cooperation of two or more senior shamans ; they will not undertake it alone. They may also be assisted by junior shamans or mediums. In a trance-state, the shamans, as a group, are believed to travel through their familiars to the ghostly plane. The familiars are reportedly issued from the bodies of the shamans — through the red headcloth outstretched from their hands — over treetops and cloud courses to the dwellings of ghosts.

Ghosts are said to inhabit a world like that of humans, only more opulent and super- naturally charged. There, the familiars are said to search for the soul; they may inquire of the ghosts, often tricking them by entering through the roofs of their houses. Many superhuman and fantastic feats are credited to familiars in their soul-retrieving exploits.

Occasionally, these ad- Ventures, or symptoms of them displayed through. But the fuller stories are related in long narrative accounts of the events by the shamans later. The successful retrieval of the soul is demonstrated to the patient and spectators by revealing in the hand some material excuvae — such as hair, fingernails, etc. Shamans delight in recounting their narrow brushes with death at the hands of ghosts. For example, the ghosts were said to have once 'trapped' the shamanistic familiars of Kwinjinaambi the female shaman referred to earlier.


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They used burning logs to 'beat' her familiar, and 'burned' it during its escape from their house. The familiar, nonetheless, secured the soul substance of a sick patient. In the morning, Kwinjinaambi bared her shoulder to her family and community, revealing burns and bruises. There were observable marks supposedly manifested upon her from her familiars' skirmish with the ghosts on the previous night of a healing ceremony.

This was material proof of her brush with death. Again, this story, widely shared among Sambia, reveals the close spiritual and physical nexus believed to exist between a human shaman and his or her familiars. These arise mainly from dreams. These oracular sayings sometimes have consequences upon social action. I have already discussed dreams as oracular assertions influencing the pattern of warfare activities.

Other prophecies may be lumped roughly into two categories : those pertaining to mundane events, and those which foretell extraordinary happenings. Shamans frequently discuss their mundane dreams in the morning after arising from sleep. Adult men and women may do the same. Initiates and children rarely do so, however, for they are believed to be inexperienced in the matters of interpreting dreams. Certain dream images are taken as omens that the traps of hunters have catches, and should be searched for cassowary, pig, possum, and eel.

Other dreams are viewed as portending illness and death. If particular individuals are implicated, they may desire to have healing ceremonies performed upon them. In such dreams too are supposedly taught new name songs n'daatu and the accompanying names by their familiars.

Bruce M. Knauft

Such dreams commonly occur ; and the names and songs are adopted by the shaman as well as bestowed upon his relatives and friends. Extraordinary prophecies, of course, are more rare. They foretell epidemics, famine, and unusual happenings. A shaman's dream which is interpreted to reveal a coming plague is, as I said earlier, the precipitating stimulus for many a collective kwolyaaulnbi ceremony. Other prophecies have foretold impending military defeats. An extraordinary and unique prophecy, in Sambia. In a well-known tale, a renowned and aged but still living shaman revealed that White Europeans were coming to the area and that they would carry with them a powerful "light".

The event occurred only months thereafter. Understandably, this prophecy was regarded as conclusive evidence confirming the oracular powers of shamans, no matter what their actual empirical source. I have tried to illustrate the element of dreaming in the onset and development of the shaman's calling. I have also sought to instance several ways in which dream reports are a key social factor in the validation of the everyday behavioural performance of shamans. Further, I have noted that dreams are sometimes the triggering events precipitating the performance of a collective kwo- lyaaulnbi ceremony in the social organization of hamlets.